Home » Voters to consider tax-neutral $11.7 million project in March

Voters to consider tax-neutral $11.7 million project in March

Auditorium rendering

On Tuesday, March 21, Cambridge CSD residents will vote on a proposed $11,760,000 capital project that will provide no additional tax impact. If approved, the project would:

  • reconstruct the auditorium in its current location,
  • renovate an entrance and lobby area adjacent to the auditorium,
  • build restrooms near the auditorium facility that also can be accessed from the exterior,
  • revamp the facilities department offices,
  • upgrade the existing faculty room,
  • and abate asbestos throughout the impacted areas

What is a tax-neutral project?

It takes 15 years for a capital project debt to be retired. By strategically timing the capital project cycle, the district can avoid a school tax impact. Old debt from a previous capital project is retiring, so when the new debt from this capital project begins, the net effect will be tax-neutral. The district is also using a portion of its capital reserve that was approved by voters in May 2022 to ensure this project is tax-neutral.

Project aligns with strategic planning goals

Since the spring of 2022, strategic planning action teams have been working on goals established by the core team. One goal states:

By 2023, the Cambridge Central School District will continue to improve and develop opportunities that align with the interests, wellbeing and aspirations of the students, staff and ultimately the greater school community.

The action team is working on enhancing the high school’s performing arts programming. A glee club was formed in November to reinvigorate student interest in singing. The team plans to conduct site visits this spring to see other schools’ performing arts programs. Construction of a new auditorium would not only provide an incredible space for CCS students to perform, but it would also provide the community with a large gathering space for meetings, public forums and events.

Project is phase one of master facilities plan

In January 2022, the district began developing a master facilities plan. A survey was conducted and respondents included current students, employees, alumni and community members. The survey responses overwhelmingly mentioned the need for a new auditorium and for an Ag program to be reinstated.

As a result of the survey responses and a districtwide activity with the employees, the buildings and grounds committee set a series of meetings throughout the summer and fall to develop and phase out the facilities plan. This project is phase one of the plan. Other phases of work may include (in no particular order):

  • renovating and restructuring the elementary classrooms/wing,
  • relocating the bus loop to the back of the building to free up the front loop for parents and visitors,
  • building an addition for an Ag facility (if necessary), and
  • constructing a multipurpose field for athletics and P.E. classes

Capital project Q&A

What is a capital project?

Just like a home, school facilities need regular attention and upkeep to continue to operate. The cost of keeping up with the daily wear and tear can rise above what the annual school budget can support. Renovation projects, also referred to as capital projects, are a way for school districts to access state aid to complete a larger amount of facilities work than possible within the scope of the annual school budget.

Why consider a capital project now?

The district and Board of Education explore ways to maintain and upgrade the facilities while considering the impact this may place on the taxpayers. Debt from a previous capital project is retiring, so when the new debt from this capital project begins, the net effect will be tax-neutral. This not only provides no additional tax impact for the community, but also continuously generates revenue for the district through state aid.

What is the total cost of the proposed project?

The cost of the capital project is not to exceed $11,760,000. This amount represents the lump sum that will support the scope of the entire project. The district is using $930,000 of its capital reserve that was approved by voters in May 2022. This will lower the principal amount to $10,830,000 and ensure the project is tax-neutral.

Will this capital project impact my taxes?

No. By developing an intentional and strategically-phased approach to funding and debt payments, the district is able to put forth a capital project that has a 0% increase to local property taxes. The district will pay for the improvements using a combination of state building aid reimbursements, debt retirement and the capital reserve fund. As the district pays off old debt, it will take on new debt to fund the capital project. This system of debt retirement will stabilize the budget and, as a result, there will be no tax increase to district residents as a result of this project.

How would this project benefit the community?

Not only would this space be utilized for school concerts, performances and assemblies, it would be one of the largest gathering spaces in the Cambridge community. Local groups in need of a large gathering space could request to use the renovated auditorium.

Capital project timeline

  • March 21, 2023: Public vote
  • March 2024: Estimated NYSED project approval (pending voter approval in March 2023)
  • July 2024: Construction begins
  • December 2025: Construction ends

Dates are approximate and subject to change.